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It is but seldom, I believe, comparatively speaking, that men are fairly reasoned out of their religion. But they are very frequently seduced, both from the practice and the belief of it, by treacherous passions within and violent temptations from without, by “ the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” These are in fact the most common, the most powerful enemies of our faith. These are the weeds and the thorns that twist themselves round every fibre of our hearts, which impede the growth and destroy the fruitfulness of every good principle that has been implanted there, and form that third and most numerous class of hearers described in the parable of the sower, who, though not professed infidels, are yet practical unbelievers, and who, though they retain the form, have lost all the substance, all the power, all the life
and soul of religion. It is then against these most dangerous corrupters of our fidelity and allegiance to our heavenly Master, that we must principally principally be upon our guard ; it is against these we must arm and prepare our souls, by summoning all our fortitude and resolution, and calling in to our aid all those spiritual succours which the power of prayer can draw down upon us from above. It was to assist us in this arduous conflict, that the compilers of our liturgy appointed the season of Lent, and more particularly the offices of the concluding week, which, from the sufferings of our Saviour at that time, we call Passion week. It was thought, and surely it was wisely thought by our ancestors, that to fortify ourselves against the attractions of the world, and the seductions of sin, it was necessary to withdraw ourselves sometimes from the tumultuous and intoxicating scenes of business and of pleasure, which, in the daily commerce of life, press so close on every side of us; and to strengthen and confirm our minds against their fatal influence, by retirement, by recollection, by self-communion, by self-examination, by meditating on the word of Q, God,
God, and, above all, by frequent and fervent prayer. To give us time for these sacred occupations, a small portion of every year has been judiciously set apart for them by our church; and what time could be so proper for those holy purposes, as that in which our blessed Lord was suffering so much for our sakes? I allude more particularly to that solemn week which is now approaching, and to which I must beg to call the most serious atten
tion of every one here present. In that week all public diversions are, as you well know, wisely prohibited by public authority ; and in conformity to the spirit of such prohibition, we should, even in our own families and in our own private amusements, be temperate, modest, decorous, and discreet. Think not however, that I am here recommending gloom and melancholy, and seclusion from all society ; far from it. This could answer no other purpose but to sour your minds and to deaden your devotions. The cheerfulness of social converse and friendly intercourse intercourse is by no means inconsistent with the duties of the week; but all those tumultuous assemblies, which are too strongly marked with an air of levity, gaiety, and dissipation, and may in fact be ranked in the number of public diversions, are plainly repugnant to that seriousness and tenderness of mind, which the awful and interesting events of that week must naturally inspire. Let me only request you to read over, when you return home, that plain, simple, unaffected, yet touching narrative of our Saviour's sufferings, which is selected from the Gospels, in the daily offices of the next week; and then ask your own hearts whether, at the very time when your Redeemer is supposed to have passed through all those dreadful scenes for your sakes and for your salvation, from his first agony in the garden to his last expiring groan upon the cross, whether at this very time you can bring yourselves to pursue the pleasures, the vanities, and the follies of the world, with the same unqualified eagerness
und unabated ardour, as if nothing had happened which had given him the slightest pain, or in which you had the smallest interest or concern. Your hearts, I am sure, will revolt at the very idea, and your own feelings will preserve you from thus wantonly sporting with the cross of Christ. And if to a prudent abstinence from these things you were to add a careful inquiry into your past conduct, and the present state of your souls, if you were to extend your views to another world, and consider what your condition there is likely to be ; what reasonable grounds you have to hope for a favourable sentence from your Almighty Judge; how far you have conformed to the commands of your Maker, and what degree of affection and gratitude you have manifested for the inexpressible kindness of your Redeemer; this surely would be an employment not inconsistent with your necessary occupations, and not unsuitable to humble candidates for pardon, aceeptance, and immortal happiness.
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